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Cutting Your Monthly Budget: Where to Start

A monthly budget is not always one-size-fits-all. You may find a budget that works perfectly for a little while, but your financial situation is not likely to stay the same. Big life changes can come along, both planned and unplanned, that require a budget adjustment.

 

Whether preparing for a new baby, saving for a down payment on a home, or going through tough times such as a job layoff or large medical bills, you may find yourself cutting the monthly budget. If your monthly budget already seems tight, it can be hard to determine the best place to start. Here are a few quick tips for cutting back on your monthly expenses:

Be Proactive

Cutting a budget for significant life changes pays to start early. Some can be easier to prepare for than others – a new baby comes with a few months to save as much as you can, and a home can be purchased on your own timeline when you are financially ready. You may try to plan your life as much possible, there are always unexpected changes and challenges.

 

Even if there are no planned life changes on the horizon, it is essential to build up a solid emergency fund. The general rule of thumb is to save around three to six months of living expenses. A solid emergency fund ensures that when times get tough, you will have something to fall back on.

Assess Your Variable Expenses

When cutting your budget, looking at your variable expenses is a great place to start. Your variable expenses include amounts that fluctuate every month. Examples of variable expenses are groceries, dining out, entertainment, and clothing.

 

Variable expenses are good to start with because you control how much you spend in these categories, and they are often easiest to cut back on. As much fun as going out for dinner and a movie is, it may be considered a luxury for the phase of life you are in. Making meals at home is exceptionally less expensive than eating out. In addition, renting a movie or having a game night at home with the people you love can be just as satisfying as a night on the town. To save money on groceries, looking into the benefits of meal planning can be helpful.

Find Ways to Slash Fixed Expenses

Obviously, you may not be able to immediately cut back on expenses such as rent, mortgage, car payments, or education loan repayments (although student loans could potentially be refinanced to save you money or lower your monthly payment). However, there may be other fixed expenses that you can eliminate. For example, cutting out cable – even temporarily – can save you a surprising amount of money. If you have a landline, you might be able to get rid of it and solely use your cell phone. Utility bills can rise in the winter months, so ensure you are diligent about turning off your lights, unplugging appliances, and not turning up the heat too high. If necessary, do some research to make sure you are getting the best deals on cell phone service, internet, and car insurance. While you won’t be able to completely exclude all of your fixed expenses, with a little effort, small savings spread over several categories can add up to a cumulative amount that creates more flexibility in your monthly budget.

 

Getting Through Tough Financial Times

Throughout life, there are many circumstances that may change your income or expense levels. Whether you are cutting back to consciously save up for an exciting life event or to unexpectedly adjusting to a financial challenge, it is essential to reevaluate your budget to adapt when these changes occur. Though it may seem daunting at first, you might be surprised by how much you can save when you put forth the proper thought and effort.

 

Related: Best Apps for Budgeting in College

 


 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

 

Mark Your Calendar for These Important Financial Dates

By Tracey Suhr

 

It’s no secret that as you get older, life gets more complicated. Long gone are the days of simply saving spare change from your grandpa’s pockets in a ceramic piggy bank. Even that savings account you opened in high school is outdated now that your expenses have exploded beyond just food, entertainment, and a cell phone bill. As an adult, you have to consider your student loan debt, saving for retirement, and affording childcare, among an ever-growing list of other financial obligations.

 

One way to effectively manage your money in adulthood is to be aware of important financial dates. This helps you predict and prepare for big expenses to be sure there are no surprises. It even helps you capitalize on saving opportunities. And since it’s a new year, there’s no better time to pull out your calendar and mark these noteworthy financial deadlines.

 

Important Financial Dates

 

January

 

Review Last Year’s Finances – Reassess your retirement funds and allocations based on how they performed last year. If you didn’t get the gains you hoped for, now may be the time to reallocate your portfolio (i.e., adjust where your money is distributed among savings accounts, stocks, bonds, etc.) Also, take this time to consider adjusting contributions toward accounts like your 401(k) if your employee matching program changed.

 

Standardize Financial Dates – It’s hard enough remembering bills without them being due at different times throughout the month. Change payment dates to be on the same day at the end of the month, which gives you 30 days to get money in the right place.

 

Fund Your IRA – If you have a Traditional or Roth IRA (Individual Retirement Account), you can contribute up to $6,000 a year to these accounts. January 1 is the first day of the year that you can make such contributions, and investing as much as you can, as early as you can, maximizes the number of days your money can grow.

 

Revise Your Student Loan Debt Repayment Strategy – If you got a raise at the end of last year (or beginning of this year), be smart with that money and direct it toward your student loan debt. Even a raise of 2-3% can help you pay off loans quicker, reducing the amount of interest paid over the life of the loan.

 

 

February

 

Max Out 401(k) Contributions – Many people aren’t aware that as long as you haven’t hit your yearly limit, you can contribute toward your 401(k) beyond December 31. You have until Tax Day to make these tax-deductible contributions. So if you have the means, now is the time. In 2019, the limit for employee 401(k) contributions was $19,000.

 

 

March

 

Prepare for Tax Day – Be ready for April 15 by getting your documents and information organized in advance. Make sure you have all forms needed from your employer, investment accounts, mortgage accounts, and student loans. TurboTax has a handy guide for commonly-used IRS tax forms, including a Form 1098 that you’ll receive if you paid interest on a student loan last year.

 

 

April

 

File Your Taxes – April 15 is Tax Day in the U.S. For those of us with student loan debt, the interest portion of these payments is tax-deductible, up to $2,500.

 

Maximize Health Savings Accounts – Tax Day is the last day to contribute pre-tax dollars to last year’s HSA. In 2019, individuals could contribute up to $3,500 as an individual or $7,100 as a family.

 

Spend Down Flexible Spending Accounts – April 30 is the deadline for spending last year’s FSA funds. Remember, these are “use it or lose it” accounts and money can be applied to copays or other out-of-pocket expenses. You can even spend it on health-related items at FSAstore.com.

 

 

May

 

Check Your Credit – This important financial date isn’t tied to May, but it should be somewhere on your calendar every year. Your score determines your ability to improve your interest rate with student loan refinancing. A check can also let you know if any fraudulent activity—tied to your name—has occurred that might negatively impact your student loan refinancing.

 

 

June

 

FAFSA Application Due – June 30 is the last day to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the upcoming school year. If you already have a student loan, consider student loan refinancing. By consolidating and refinancing your loans, you can make payments simpler and possibly reduce your monthly payments.

 

 

July

 

Refinance Student Loans – Summer is a great time to refinance student loans because you won’t be distracted by the holidays or year-end deadlines at work. When you’re ready, check your eligibility for student loan refinancing at ELFI.com.*

 

 

August

 

Contribute to Emergency Funds and Savings – Unless someone in your family heads back to school this fall, August is typically a sleepy month for finances. Time to double-check that you’re contributing to emergency funds and holiday savings accounts so you don’t get into financial trouble during end-of-the-year festivities.

 

 

September

 

Car Shop – This month is a great time to look for a new vehicle. Dealerships are in a generous mood since new models will soon start rolling into the lot, and they need to clear inventory.

 

 

October

 

Complete FAFSA for Next Year – October 1 is the first day to file your FAFSA for next school year. Filling out this application as soon as possible ensures you don’t miss out on available aid.

 

 

November

 

Open Enrollment – Employers typically hold open enrollment during this time of year. Reassess if your current plan still works for you. Also consider if it’s worth changing plans or opting out of certain coverage (like dental) to reallocate funds to debts, like student loans.

 

 

December

 

Review Accounts – Make sure you’re making the right moves to use your FSA money, maximize contributions to savings accounts, and even if you need to file a new W-4 to withhold more or less money from your paychecks. Withholding less can be part of a new student loan repayment strategy where you have more cash to contribute toward the loan. However, it also means you won’t get as big of a refund next tax season.

 

Shop Around for Car Insurance – While you’ll want to update your car insurance after any major life change, such as moving or having a child, you could score additional savings depending on the time of year. In a 2014 study, December was the cheapest month to obtain car insurance, with March being the most expensive. While the jury’s still out on the exact reasoning behind the shift, market competition and the likelihood of natural disasters could be a contributing factor.

 

Being aware of important financial dates can help you save and manage your money so you have more options down the road for student loan repayment, business opportunities, and real estate investments.

 

If you’re ready to explore student loan refinancing, you don’t have to wait for an important financial date on the calendar. You can learn about eligibility, benefits, and more—today—at ELFI.com.

 

This blog has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. Always consult a professional for guidance around your personal financial situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

4 Things That Could Maximize Your Tax Savings Before December 31

This blog has been prepared for informational purposes only, and does not constitute tax or financial advice. Please consult your tax advisor for guidance on your personal tax situation.

 

By Caroline Farhat

 

With the end of the year coming, it’s typically a time people start thinking about the goals they’ll make in the new year. Do you want to refinance student loans, pay down debt, or just cut back on your hefty clothing budget? You’re not alone. In fact, Inc. reported that about 60% of Americans currently make New Year’s resolutions. “Saving more and spending less” was the fourth most common resolution.

 

It may be tempting to wait until the ball drops to start working on your goals, but there’s one area you likely could be saving on that you’ll have to take action on now. Any guesses? If you thought of Uncle Sam, you’re right. With some strategic planning, you can maximize your tax savings so that you’re not left with a big bill when Tax Day rolls around. Ready to start saving? Here are four things that could maximize your tax savings before year-end.

 

Max out your retirement accounts

You’ve probably been told to save for retirement hundreds of times. There’s a good reason for that. The earlier you begin contributing to retirement accounts, the more time it allows for the money to compound and increase.

 

So how does contributing more at the end of the year help your taxes? If you contribute to a tax-deferred retirement account, such as a 401(k), the contributions could help lower your taxable income for 2019. There is a maximum amount you can contribute to retirement accounts and it can change yearly. For 2019 the limit is $19,000 if you are under the age of 50, and $25,000 if you are 50 or older. In 2020 the limit is $19,500 for under the age of 50, and $26,000 for ages 50 and older. Bottom line: If you have not reached the limit and you’re financially able to contribute more, it may be beneficial to contribute an additional amount up to the $19,000 limit so you can lower your taxable income.

 

Be strategic with your income

This tactic is especially important for you freelancers out there who might have more control over when you can recognize income.

 

In order to know how to best be strategic with your income you need to consider if you anticipate being in a lower tax bracket this year or next year. If you anticipate being in the same bracket or a lower tax bracket next year, it’s likely more advantageous to defer your income to the following year. However, if you anticipate that you will be in a higher tax bracket next year, you may want to accept all the income you can now.

 

If you are self-employed, try to collect all unpaid invoices before the end of the year if you think you’ll be in a higher tax bracket next year. If you think you will be in a lower tax bracket next year, wait to collect payment from the invoices after January 1.

 

If you work as a full-time employee, a bonus you may receive is typically the best way to defer income. Check with your HR and/or payroll departments to see if this is a possibility.

 

Maximize other tax deductions

There are a lot of other ways you can maximize your tax savings at the end of the year. Here are some examples:

  • If you have a mortgage, it may be beneficial to make one extra payment at the end of the year since mortgage interest is deductible on your taxes. If the payment due in January is paid in December that will be more interest you can take as a tax deduction. In addition, if you have mortgage insurance the same principle applies.
  • Make a charitable donation and you may be able to take that as a tax deduction. Be sure to save your receipt as proof!
  • If you have a health savings account, try to contribute up to the maximum allowable amount. Contributions to an HSA are deductible and reduce your taxable income. The maximum contribution limits for 2019 are $3,500 for individuals and $7,000 for families. People ages 55 and older can contribute an extra $1,000.

 

Make an extra student loan payment

Making an extra student loan payment is another great way to potentially maximize your tax savings because you can deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest paid. Student loan interest can be deducted whether you itemize deductions or not, so this is a great perk for everyone paying student loan debt to consider. The deduction of $2,500 is per tax return not per person, so if you and your spouse both pay on student loan debt you still can only deduct $2,500 of the interest you paid between the two of you. In addition, there are income limits to be aware of. For tax year 2019, in order to qualify to take the full deduction your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) must equal or be below $70,000 for single tax filing status and $140,000 for married filing jointly. If your MAGI is above $85,00 as single tax filing status and $170,000 for married filing jointly you are not eligible to deduct any of the student loan interest. If your MAGI is between the two limits you may be able to deduct some of the student loan interest you have paid.

 

If looking at your loan payments is making your head hurt, it might be time to start looking at your student loan refinancing options. While saving on your taxes is a great start, student loan refinancing could potentially save you thousands of dollars. You can see just how much you can save each month, and over the lifetime of your loan, by using our student loan refinance calculator*.

 

Bottom Line

While filing for taxes will never be fun, you can make it easier on your bank account by doing a little planning ahead of time. Implement some of these tips and you could see the benefits come tax time. If nothing else, you will be working towards a better financial outlook in the new year!

 

Each person’s tax situation is different. The tips above are not intended to replace the advice of a trained tax specialist. Make sure to do your research and consult your tax advisor for guidance.

 


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Will Applying for a Student Loan Hurt My Credit Score?

So you’re looking for student loans to finance your education – good for you! Student loans can be an option to bridge the gap when financial aid doesn’t cover the full cost of your tuition and college expenses, which is the case for about 43 million Americans. Nonetheless, it’s smart to think about how student loans can affect your financial future and whether applying for a student loan will hurt your credit score.

 

First off, let’s explain what a credit score is. Simply put, it’s a three-digit number that indicates your relative credit risk. One of the most common credit-scoring model is a FICO® score. Ranging from 300 to 850, the higher the number, the more likely (theoretically) someone is to pay their bills on time. Factors that determine your credit score include:

  • Payment history
  • Your debt-to-income ratio (DTI)
  • How established your credit is
  • Credit mix
  • Recent applications for credit

 

Needless to say, a major indicator of your financial well-being is indicated in your credit score.

 

How Applying for Private Student Loans Affects Your Credit Score

 

Whenever you apply to take out a loan, a credit inquiry from one or several credit reporting agencies will likely occur. If you have a solid credit history, the effects are usually minimal. However, the effects will typically be larger for someone with little-to-no credit. According to an article by Bev O’Shea posted on Nerdwallet, whatever impact your credit score suffers should fall off after 12 months, and after about 24 months, the inquiry should disappear from your credit report entirely.

 

There’s also an important distinction between a “soft” and “hard” credit inquiry.

 

A “soft pull,” as it’s known, can be done just in connection with pre-qualification for a loan, whether it’s a credit card offer you receive in the mail, mortgage, student loan, or car loan. Some employers will do a soft pull of your credit as well. Soft pulls do not impact your credit score.

 

A “hard pull” generally requires your consent and happens when you apply for the credit you’re seeking. It’s the hard pulls that show up on your credit report. It’s important to monitor your credit report and dispute any hard inquiries you didn’t authorize.

 

In the case of private student loans, a prequalification will not typically affect your credit, whereas applying for a loan will show up on your report.

 

Applying for Multiple Private Student Loans

 

So, what if you submit multiple applications? Will they all affect your credit score? It’s hard to know for sure, as credit-scoring model companies don’t provide a lot of detail about their models. Generally speaking, credit-scoring models appear to take into consideration that if an applicant has multiple inquiries for a student loan they may be shopping for the best rate. One key point is that the closer those inquires are together, the less impact it may have on your credit score.

 

In other words, shopping around to find the best loan option for you should not affect your credit score dramatically and is likely not a major cause for concern. By applying for multiple private student loans, you can see which lender will actually give you the best rate – important when it comes to saving money over the life of your loan.

 

ELFI offers a variety of private student loan options for financing your undergraduate or graduate education, as well as private student loan options for parents.* Check out our full list of frequently asked questions or contact ELFI at 1-844-601-3534 to speak with a Personal Loan Advisor.

 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.

Motivating Your Student to Apply for Scholarships

Do you find your child lacking motivation when it comes to finding grants and scholarships? While some students are intrinsically motivated and will search out and apply for scholarships on their own, other students may need a little encouragement in order to accomplish these tasks. While it can be frustrating, it’s important to remember that this is likely the first time your child has had to navigate financial waters. Because of that, we’re sharing some simple ways you can motivate your child to apply for scholarships before and during their college years.

Discuss college costs and finances with your child.

Your student may not fully understand how much college can cost. Hold an honest discussion with your child where you review the costs of their top college choices, how much money (if any) you will be able to contribute, the significance of creating a college budget, the realities of student loans, etc. While they may be more focused on which clubs they’ll join and their newfound freedom, helping them understand the importance of financial help can make their college year much more enjoyable.

Share scholarship success stories.

Sometimes, all it takes to motivate your student to apply for scholarships is sharing how their peers are reducing the cost of college. Ask other parents which scholarships their child was able to secure, and even let your child know the lump sum their friend was able to save. Take note of the steps each student performed in order to obtain the scholarships and go over with your student ways they can implement strategies into their application process.

Assist with developing a scholarship organization plan.

When it comes to applying for college scholarships, it pays to be organized. From deadlines to account passwords to application requirements, your student will have a multitude of details to remember. Developing a scholarship organization plan will help deter your child from becoming overwhelmed, which in turn will motivate them to complete applications. Share these organization tips with your child to make the process of applying for scholarships a little easier.

Provide incentives.

Using extrinsic motivators, such as rewards, can prod your student into action. Just as you may have bribed your toddler during the toilet training phase, that same concept should work with your teenager. Consider making a deal with your child that if she applies for a certain amount of scholarships, then you will provide half of the money so she can purchase that new phone or outfit for which she has been saving up money.

Give your child a free pass.

Most teens would gladly give up their household chores to complete other tasks, even if the task involves academics. Allow your child a free pass on chores if they use that time to search out and complete scholarship applications.

Set realistic goals.

If you expect or nag your child to spend most of her free time looking for scholarship leads and filling out applications, no wonder they aren’t motivated. Work with your student to set realistic goals for the number of hours spent each week on the scholarship application process.

Acknowledge and encourage your child’s efforts.

Positive encouragement can work wonders to increase your child’s motivation. By letting your child know that you have seen and appreciate their efforts to apply for scholarships, you are giving them the confidence they need to continue applying for more.

For more information about scholarships, be sure to read the scholarships and grants from our friends at eCampus Tours. Your teen can also perform a free scholarship search by clicking here.

 

Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.

5 Financial Tips for After You Refinance Student Loans

The process of refinancing student loans can be like studying for finals: you prepare for weeks, the stress keeps you up at night, and once the big day finally passes, you feel a huge sense of relief. You might even go out with friends to celebrate. But like college, you can’t just forget what you learned. You have to apply that knowledge to the next step. 

 

When it comes to refinancing student loans, the next step is to continue honing your financial savviness. Find other ways to reduce and quickly pay off debts so you can start spending money on the things you want, instead of the things you need! Below are five tips to consider after refinancing student loans. 

Pay Down Other Debts

Take the extra amount you paid toward that student loan and apply it to other debts. With a $50,000 loan at an 8% interest rate, you could owe approximately $480/month for 15 years. Your total interest over the life of the loan is $36,000. But if you’re able to reduce that interest rate to just 6%, your monthly payment drops to $420/month and the total interest paid is $26,000. What could you do with an extra $60/month? What could you do with an extra $10,000 over 10 years? A lot. 

 

Consider all the types of debt and ongoing expenses you have that you could apply that $10,000 toward:

  • Credit cards
  • Car loans
  • Home loans
  • Medical bills
  • Childcare
  • Cell phone bills
  • Utility bills

 

You can also opt to keep that extra money aimed at your loan. Refinancing student loans often establishes terms with no prepayment penalties. So paying off loans faster can alleviate the burden of debt. This can take many forms, including:

  • Make an extra payment: In addition to your minimum monthly payment (12 payments a year), consider an extra payment every few months. In the example above, if you save $60/month on your refinanced student loan, you will have enough money for a whole extra payment every 7 months, with no additional work done on your part. Just a little saving!
  • Pay more than the minimum: If you don’t want to worry about orchestrating extra payments, overpay during each regular monthly payment. By going above and beyond the minimum payment, you’ll keep from accruing as much interest on your principal balance. Going back to our example again, if you were to keep that extra $60 applied to your monthly payment of $420 (for a total of $480), you could pay off your loan 2–3 years earlier at a savings of $5,000. It might seem tempting to use that extra $60 as play money right now, but $5,000 could be an even bigger play day in the future!
  • Make single lump-sum payments: Use your tax return, annual bonus, or an inheritance to make lump-sum payments toward the principal balance on your refinanced student loan. Again, the mindset here is to pay off that loan as fast and comfortably as you can.  

Negotiate Other Bills or Debts

Don’t stop while you’re on a roll. Once you secure better terms for your loan, find other ways to lower your bills. Use that financial savvy you picked up refinancing student loans, and negotiate with other debt collectors. This negotiation isn’t limited to loans—you can often get better rates with your cable and internet provider too. 

 

You also likely have a dozen or more automatic monthly payments coming out of your checking account or linked to a credit card. Some banks or apps like Truebill® and Trim® can help you find and cancel subscriptions that are unused or that you forgot you signed up for in the first place. What started as $60/month saved could possibly turn into $150/month after canceling unused subscriptions. 

Consolidate Credit Card Debt

You can consolidate loans, but did you know you can also consolidate credit card debt? If you have multiple cards that you owe money on, you can roll those cards into a single loan. Depending on your credit score and other factors, a consolidated loan can have lower interest or a lower, more achievable payment. You could also take out a personal loan with a lower rate to pay off cards directly with the credit card company.

Keep At It

Refinancing only sounds like the hard part. The real challenge comes after you sign the papers. Getting a new interest rate and a new loan term won’t save you money if you don’t make on-time payments and pay off your loan according to those new terms. Adult life has a lot more things on its to-do list. Set up automatic payments so you don’t risk forgetting. At the very least,   set monthly reminders in your calendar app to write a check or manually process your payment. 

Tell Your Friends

ELFI offers options for student loans and refinancing student loans. But did you know ELFI also has a referral program1 that can help you make (and save) even more money? Sign up and create a personalized referral link to share with friends or family. When someone refinances using your link, you’ll get a $400 referral bonus check and your friend will receive a $100 credit toward the principal balance of an Education Loan Finance loan. There’s no limit on the number of people you can refer. Learn more at elfi.com/referral-program-student-loan-refinance.

 

 

Note: Links to other websites are provided as a convenience only. A link does not imply SouthEast Bank’s sponsorship or approval of any other site. SouthEast Bank does not control the content of these sites.

 

Terms and conditions apply. Subject to credit approval.

 

1Subject to credit approval. Program requirements apply. Limit one $400 cash bonus per referral. Offer available to those who are above the age of majority in their state of legal residence who refer new customers who refinance their education loans with Education Loan Finance. The new customer will receive a $100 principal reduction on the new loan within 6-8 weeks of loan disbursement. The referring party will be mailed a $400 cash bonus check within 6-8 weeks after both the loan has been disbursed, and the referring party has provided ELFI with a completed IRS form W-9. Taxes are the sole responsibility of each recipient. A new customer is an individual without an existing Education Loan Finance loan account and who has not held an Education Loan Finance loan account within the past 24 months. Additional terms and conditions apply.

Top-Earning Majors in the US

Do you know what you want to do for the rest of your life? If you’re like many students, your answer will change as you progress through your college years. Will your career pay well out of the gate, or will it take some time to reach financial success? Some top-earning majors on this list start out with high-earning salaries, while others, such as a business analysis, start out on the lower scale before eventually offering a higher salary as experience grows.  

 

Sometimes your passion is profitable, but if it’s not, knowing what college major to pursue can be hard. This purpose of this blog isn’t to steer you toward a certain top-earning major, but rather to help you make an educated decision based on data. So without further ado, let’s take a look at what careers earn top-dollar in the US.

Highest Starting Salaries

If you’re looking to earn a high salary right out of college, engineering may be the major for you. U.S. News reported that according to PayScale data, these top-earning majors had the highest median starting salaries for workers with a bachelor’s degree:

  1. Electrical engineering. Median starting salary: $71,659

 

  1. Nuclear engineering. Median starting salary: $73,175

 

  1. Chemical engineering. Median starting salary: $73,627

 

  1. Computer engineering. Median starting salary: $74,026

 

  1. Petroleum engineering. Median starting salary: $96,544

PayScale’s Highest Paying Majors of 2019

Data from PayScale’s research confirms US News’s report on engineers’ earnings. Analyzing the overall top-earning majors and not just the highest starting salaries shows engineering jobs are still at the top of the list. The salaries below reflect the median salary for each group described.

  1. Aeronautics & Astronautics

      Salary with 0-5 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $73,100 

      Salary with 5-10 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $131,600

 

  1. Pharmacy

     Salary with 0-5 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $79,600

     Salary with 5-10 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $132,500

 

  1. Business Analysis

     Salary with 0-5 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $57,200

     Salary with 5-10 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $133,200

 

  1. Electrical Power Engineering

    Salary with 0-5 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $72,400

    Salary with 5-10 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $134,700

 

  1. Actuarial Mathematics

    Salary with 0-5 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $63,300

    Salary with 5-10 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $135,100

 

  1. Political Economy

     Salary with 0-5 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $57,600

     Salary with 5-10 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $136,200

 

  1. Operations Research

     Salary with 0-5 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $77,900

     Salary with 5-10 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $137,100

 

  1. Applied Economics and Management

     Salary with 0-5 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $58,900

     Salary with 5-10 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $140,000

 

  1. Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (EECS)

     Salary with 0-5 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $88,000

     Salary with 5-10 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $142,200

 

  1. Petroleum Engineering

    Salary with 0-5 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $94,500

    Salary with 5-10 years work experience + Bachelor’s degree: $176,900

 

You can see a full list of top-earning majors according to Payscale here.

 

Even if you’re not studying one of these top-earning majors, your degree will likely earn you more in the workforce. According to Forbes, the average college graduate will earn around $900,000 more than the average high school graduate throughout their lifetime. Over time, you’ll likely earn the money to pay back your student loans and earn financial independence. In the meantime, focus on your studies and know that in the end, it’ll all be worth it.

 

If you’re interested in a private student loan to help pay for college, our Personal Loan Advisors are available and would love to speak with you and answer any other questions you may have. Let’s connect.*

 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites

Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

How to Know When It’s Time to Refinance Your Student Loans

There are plenty of milestones in life that give us reason to celebrate– high school graduation, marriage, the birth of child, paying off student loans. Yes, seeing your debt decrease and your savings increase for many people are a time worth remembering. And truth be told, being further out of debt can make those other milestones much more enjoyable. This blog is designed to help you reach that debt-free milestone quicker by refinancing your student loans. After all, getting them under control and adjusting the repayment terms to something more favorable could help make a dent. Here’s how to know it’s time to refinance your student loans:

You Earn Good Money

No one wants to see their hard-earning income fly out the window. If we’re talking about milestones, we would argue that the 15th and 30th of the month are recurring ones that give us plenty of joy, albeit short-lived. When we see money deposited we want to hold on to it and protect it. However, your debt doesn’t go away. Even though you’re earning good money you will have to face the music and pay off the education that helped get you to the position you’re in. Refinancing your student loans often means a better interest rate and the option to choose a better term.

You’re Credit-Worthy

Many people simply aren’t aware that federal interest rates are not dependent on your financial circumstances. There are a few factors involved, but the credit history of the borrower isn’t one of them. If you’ve been on-time with your credit card, mortgage, car loan, or any other debt, and maintained a good balance between the money you earn versus what you owe in debt, you’ve likely got a high credit score. When you refinance your student loans with a private lender that credit score helps determine your interest rate, and that in return can help save some money.

You Love One Payment

One of the added benefits of refinancing your student loans often means consolidating your loans. While it’s true you can still refinance partial loans, lumping them all together with a nice bow on top not only helps you feel empowered to pay them off, but also reduces the likelihood you’ll miss a payment due to the sheer number of them floating around out there.

You’re Incentivized at Work

A growing number of companies are taking a long, hard look at the benefits they offer their employees. Gone are the days of sticking with one job from graduation to retirement. Today, it’s all about working for an employer that offers great benefits, compensation and work/life balance. And because of that, repaying part of an employee’s student loan obligations is starting to become the norm. If you’re in this category, it may be wise to refinance your student loans, consolidate them, and watch your employer help pay down your debt.

 

If you can check these boxes chances are you’re ready to refinance your student loans and are one step closer to that all-important milestone of getting out of debt. Speak with one of our Personal Loan Advisors to help walk you through the process.

 

Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites
Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the web sites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

Responsibilities of Cosigning A Loan

It’s often thought about pretty commonly that people will attend college. What often isn’t discussed is how people will afford to pay for their college degree. When looking for available financial aid options many look to private student loans to pay for college. Once completing the application don’t be surprised if it is denied because of your financial history or lack thereof. Unless your parents opened up a credit card account for you as an authorized user when you born, you probably won’t have a long enough credit history. Don’t be overly heartbroken, since you aren’t the only one without a long credit history. A way around not having an established credit history is to talk with a parent or guardian about being a cosigner on your student loan. This isn’t an easy process, but it can be worthwhile if both parties understand the responsibilities that are associated with cosigned student loans. Additionally, adding a cosigner to a loan may not be the right answer.

 

Having a cosigner can help qualify you for a student loan because the right cosigner should have an established credit history. As a lending institution, it would be too difficult to lend to a borrower who hasn’t yet shown that they are financially responsible. Adding a cosigner who is financially responsible, for a loan assures the lender that the loan is less of a risk and is more likely to be paid back.

 

If you like sports, think of it like a basketball game. If you’re injured and can no longer play, a substitute or someone on the team plays the game in your place. A cosigner would be your financially responsible substitute in the game of loans. If you are unable to carry the financial burden of a loan at any time and take a knee, a cosigner is expected and legally responsible to repay the debt.  Though the concept of adding a cosigner can seem fairly simple, there is a lot that goes along with it. Here are a few things to understand, before you even consider asking someone to cosign your private student loan.

 

 

Why would you need to add a cosigner to a loan?

 

There are multiple different cases why you may need a cosigner. If you have never owned a credit card, had a loan before or held any type of credit, you may have no established credit history. Even if you have had credit for a short time, there may not be enough history for the private loan company to evaluate. If you have a large loan you’re interested in taking out, it’s highly unusual that the loan will be provided to someone with a year or less of credit history. Based on your credit history a student loan company can see how often a person is paying off debt and what their credit score is. Without a credit history, it can be hard for a student loan company to evaluate if you will be on time for loan payments.  With a cosigner, the student loan company can evaluate the financial history of the cosigner and see that they are a reliable applicant.

 

Another reason that you may need a cosigner is that you have a bad credit score. If your debt-to-income ratio is too high, you have an unsteady income, or you have previous defaults on your credit history, this could be a reason why you’d need to add a cosigner. A cosigner can help qualify you for a private student loan. When having a cosigner, it is the cosigner’s loan and they are fully responsible for that loan too. Though your cosigner is not using the loan, it is equally their responsibility to make sure the loan is paid off. If you choose to ask a family member or friend to be a cosigner, it is important they understand the financial responsibility that they are taking. For example, if you do not pay your loan, your cosigner will have to pay it off. A cosigner will need to have a good credit history and consistently have responsible financial habits. You may be thinking of multiple different people who could be your cosigner. Before diving in, be sure to understand who can cosign your loan.

 

Who can cosign a loan for college?

 

When evaluating the need for a cosigner, you will need to know who is eligible. Undergraduate and graduate private loans lenders have a list of criteria that a cosigner must meet. The criteria for a cosigner will be different based on each lending institutions policy and eligibility requirements. Here’s a breakdown of some of the general eligibility requirements needed.

 

  • A cosigner must be a United States citizen and of legal age.
  • Legal age will vary by state, so it is important to look up the legal age for your state of interest.
  • As for your preference, it needs to be someone you trust. Maybe start by asking a parent or close relative.
  • Needs to have a good credit score, and has to know all the financial responsibilities of a cosigner.
  • The cosigner will be required to have a consistent employer or a steady income. If a family member is not an option, consider a dependable, close friend.
  • Some private loan companies require that the cosigner have the same address as the applicant.

 

Cosigner Responsibilities

 

Make sure your cosigner fully understands what they are committing to and that you both discuss the responsibilities needed from a cosigner. Being a cosigner can be unpredictable. As a borrower, you may not be able to pay off a loan that you have taken on and your cosigner will be accountable for the remainder of the student loan payments. This could affect a cosigner and their future. Go over the cosigner paperwork and discuss all the options you have. You both will have equal responsibility throughout the life of the loan.

 

Cosigner responsibilities include payment on any late or missing payments as per the contract of the private loan. The cosigner’s credit report will show the student loan, therefore, any late payments will affect the cosigner’s credit score. A cosigner, by cosigning, is adding more credit to their credit history. Therefore, if the cosigner needs their own loan, they may find it difficult due to the additional credit added from the private loan.

 

A creditor may have different ways of collecting loan debt, but they can garnish wages depending on the state the loan is originated in. If the loan is not paid, you or the cosigner’s employer may be required to refuse a portion of your paycheck and send it to the creditor. In addition, a private loan may have clauses included in the document. Be aware that a clause may require the loan amount paid in full at the time of a cosigner’s death. Meaning if you ask someone to be a cosigner and they pass away the debt may have to be paid in full at that time. The same can go for the cosigner if the borrower passes away, the full debt balance could be expected at the time of the borrower’s death. Open communication between you and your cosigner is vital. Go over all clauses, liabilities, and possibilities to ensure you are both aware of the circumstances.

 

Factors to consider when selecting a cosigner

 

A cosigner needs to be someone who is completely able to pay off your loan. The private loan company will want to see that the cosigner has a steady income. A steady income means that they have reliable employment or a consistent form of payment. Without a steady income, the loan company will have no evidence that your cosigner has the funds to help pay off the loan.

 

Your cosigner will need to have a decently lengthy credit history. Along with the cosigner’s credit history, the lender will review their credit score. A credit score will illustrate to the loan company that the cosigner has borrowed money previously and was able to pay it back on time. A private loan company is always looking for a trustworthy candidate that will be capable of paying back their debt. While the loan company will decide if you and your cosigner are qualified, it is important that you have a dependable cosigner.

 

Cosigning will be a long term commitment and all clauses must be considered. Good health will be a factor when choosing a cosigner. Good health may seem like an odd qualification to have. If your cosigner dies, your loan could automatically be placed in default regardless of the payments you have made. Due to unfortunate circumstances, this could have a harmful effect on your credit score.

 

Whether it a relative or close friend, you and your cosigner must be on the same page. Once you have a loan you both will share the responsibility of getting it paid off. Talk about financial barriers together. If you are unsure you can pay off the loan, let your cosigner know ahead of time. This could help prevent any devastating effects on your credit scores in the future.

 

Benefits of using a Cosigner

 

While having a cosigner is a serious decision, it does include benefits. One of the biggest advantages to adding a cosigner is that it could help you to have a better interest rate. Adding a cosigner with a good credit history, and income, private loan companies may give you a lower interest rate. How can having a cosigner get you a lower interest rate? Since your cosigner should have an established credit history and income, it means that the loan is less risky for the lending institution. If the loan is more likely to be paid back based on previous borrower history, then the lending institution will provide a more attractive interest rate on the loan. Having a lower interest rate on your loan could mean thousands of dollars saved from debt repayment.

 

Secondly, having a cosigner could assist you with your own credit. Since a cosigner gives you a better chance at receiving the loan, you’re more likely to establish the credit to further build out your credit history. Assuming you’re able to make the monthly payments on your student loan, you will start to build a credit history. If you are paying on time, this will help you to improve credit for future needs and purchases for both you and cosigner. Without a cosigner, you may not be eligible for the loan and would not be able to get a jump start on your credit. Cosigning for a debt is not something that should be taken lightly by anyone. This could be the right answer for you or it could be the wrong answer. It’s important to review all your options as a borrower and discuss the liabilities and responsibilities of cosigning with your cosigner.

 

10 Facts About Student Loans That Can Save You Money

 

What You Need to Know About College Scholarships: Part 2

Part 1 of this series covered the basics of searching for scholarship money to lessen the cost of college and the average cost of college. Part 2 looks at scholarships available through the federal government and gives you additional information about qualifying and applying for these opportunities to help you achieve your educational goals.

 

Federal Scholarships for College

 

It’s a big part of the American Dream: graduating from college to pursue a productive and rewarding career. In fact, Americans value a college education so much that our federal government awards over 120 billion dollars in annual aid to help students achieve this goal. Much federal financial aid is in the form of student loans, work-study programs, and tax credits for education. However, the government also awards “free money,” which often doesn’t have to be repaid. Instead of calling this type of award a scholarship, the government calls it a federal grant. Grants are awarded based on need, plus special conditions and circumstances. A federal scholarship or grant could be your ticket to a great education at a lower cost.

 

Federal Grants & Private Scholarships: What’s the Difference?

 

You may be eligible for both federal grants and scholarships from your college, state, service club, foundation or business. One of the main differences between the two types of aid is the application process. Each private scholarship has its own process, and you must carefully adhere to the instructions and meet all deadlines if you hope to qualify. Eligibility for a federal grant is determined using the comprehensive FAFSA® form, which students submit to apply for all federal student aid (grants, loans, work-study and other types of federal assistance). An exception to this is military ROTC scholarships and VA programs, which have varying application processes. ROTC and VA applicants must go through the appropriate service branch or agency to apply.

 

Private scholarships are frequently awarded on merit (scholastic or athletic achievement), specified condition (area of study, heritage, college or state) or financial need. Sometimes, more than one criterion is used to determine the award. Federal grants are based primarily on need, although some federal programs have been established for specific purposes like promoting teacher education or community service. Such grants may have additional requirements, like academic achievement and service commitment, in exchange for education benefits. Likewise, scholarships awarded through U.S. military ROTC programs come with a specific commitment to serve.

 

How Do You Apply for a Federal Grant or Scholarship?

 

Application for federal grants begins by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. To apply for scholarships through military ROTC programs, you must apply with the associated military branch. Application for VA benefits can be accessed through the Dept. of Veterans Affairs website. The Dept. of Defense also offers scholarships and graduate fellowships with their own application process. Links to these federal sites are listed here:

 

 

Resources for Grants & Scholarships Through the Federal Government

Check out these federal grant programs that could help you lower the amount of money you have to borrow to attend college.

 

Pell Grants:

These grants gave eligible students a maximum amount of $6,195 toward their education in 2019 – 2020. Students may receive this assistance for up to 12 semesters of college.

Available To: Undergraduate Students

Qualifications:

  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. May be eligible if enrolled in a post-baccalaureate teacher certification program.
  3. Must not have been incarcerated in a federal or state correctional institution.

Amount Received Dependent On:

  • Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Defined by the Department of Education as “an index number that college financial aid staff use to determine how much financial aid you would receive if you were to attend their school.” The FAFSA form information is used to calculate this. The formula takes into account your family’s taxed and untaxed income, assets, benefits, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college.

Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Financial Need

  • Cost of Attendance. Determined by your school for your program.
  • Attendance Schedule. Will you be a full-time or part-time student?
  • Are you attending school for the entire year or just a semester?

 

 

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants:

This is an additional grant program distributed by participating colleges and allocates anywhere from $100 to $4000 toward a recipient’s undergraduate education. Submitting your FAFSA early can have a direct impact on this type of grant. Each school sets its own deadline for campus-based funding. You should be able to see the deadline on the school’s website and if it’s not there be sure to speak with a member of your financial aid office.

Available To: Undergraduate Students

Qualifications:

  1. Must show exceptional financial need.
  2. Have not earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.

 

 

Teacher Education Assistance for College & Higher Education (TEACH) Grants:

You must also be pursuing a career in teaching. In order to qualify you will need to teach at the elementary or secondary level school in a high-need field in a low-income area after graduation.

Available To: Undergraduate Students, Post Baccalaureate Students, or Graduate Student (Attend a Participating School)

Qualifications:

  1. Enrolled in a TEACH-Grant-eligible program.
  2. Meet academic achievement requirements (scoring above the 75th percentile on one or more parts of a college admissions test or maintaining a cumulative GPA of at least 3.25)
  3. Receive TEACH counseling to explain the terms and conditions of the service obligation. Must complete counseling each year you receive a TEACH Grant.
  4. Sign a TEACH Grant Agreement to Serve.

 

Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grants:

Eligible students who lost a parent in military service and do not meet the need-based threshold for a Pell Grant can apply for additional college funds through this program.

Available To Qualifications:

  1. Not eligible for the Federal Pell Grant due to Expected Family Contribution.
  2. Meet Federal Pell Grant requirements for eligibility.
  3. Parent or guardian was a member of the U.S armed forces, who died as a result of military service performed in Iraq or Afghanistan after the events of 9/11.
  4. Under 24 years old or enrolled in college at least part-time at the time of the parent or guardian’s death.

 

 

SMART Scholarship Program:

The Dept. of Defense offers undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships to encourage participation in the STEM sciences and recruit future civilian employees for the DoD.

Available To Qualifications:

  1. Must be a U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or United Kingdom Citizen at the time of application
  2. As of August 1, 2019, must be 18 years of age or older.
  3. Ability to participate in summer internships at a DoD facility.
  4. Willingness to accept employment post graduate for DoD
  5. Minimum of 3.0 on a scale of 4.0 and in good standing.
  6. Pursuing one of these disciplines for undergraduate or graduate degrees.

 

Jobs to Reduce Student Loans

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites
Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.